Don’t cut your marketing budget—now is the time to revamp your brand, ramp up visibility, and make a lasting impression.
The pandemic has quickly exposed a variety of underlying cultural and economic issues that were unimaginable this time last year. The realization we are simultaneously vulnerable to unexpected social and economic disruption, and resilient in the face of it, has changed the landscape of our perceptions, interactions and values. There’s no denying it’s been tough for everyone—especially hotels and businesses in travel and hospitality who have been hit hardest.
The silver lining is the opportunity to realign and refresh (even reinvent) your brand. It’s a chance to (re)connect with your guests directly, looking for new ways to engage them—starting with your property’s website, social media and virtual experiences—so your business can continue to pick up where it left off. We are all part of a global community of travelers eager to get back to business, as well as the pursuit of discovery and adventure. So while our world may never be the same again—and adaptation to safety regulations and consumer-driven changes is a necessity—business will return to those who attract it.
The strongest, most relevant brands will reign, so let’s budget accordingly. As we prepare our marketing budgets for 2021, I reflect on the positive outcomes IDeaS has seen in our investments and focus in these areas:
- Continuously evolve to remain relevant and proactive to meet the needs of hoteliers and emerging trends for the industry;
- Increase brand confidence, consistency and exposure across all channels and department roles; and
- Connect directly and consistently with clients, partners and industry thought leaders for continuous collaboration, input and feedback.
Spend time getting to know the new expectations of your customers and adjusted understanding of guest insights. Once empowered with knowledge, increase advertising and promotion spend, get hyper-segmented in your offers, find creative ways to connect with your loyal guests, expand your exposure in market, and differentiate your brand experience.
With so much disruption, It’s no surprise that dramatic cultural shifts are being realized during the pandemic. Expectations have evolved even faster than before—consumers and hoteliers alike have begun refocusing their dollars. Buyers have heightened expectations around quality, stability and technology innovation. They feel more comfortable purchasing from brands that exhibit agility and adaptability to the current situation, while at the same time reliability and consistency of the brand experience and product/service delivered. Guests want to tailor their experiences and preferences (e.g., contactless check-in/out, COVID safety, dining/meal delivery options) and will choose the brand that enables the power of choice.
Another expectation has emerged around good corporate behavior. The pandemic has annihilated the cash flow of entire industries and already shut the doors of many businesses. Most markedly it has brought into sharp relief those brands who have prioritized civility over their bottom line. Those who prioritize sustainability or opened their doors to healthcare workers, for instance. When things are good, most people are fine spending their money with brands whose values and image they don’t entirely resonate with, but when times get tough people largely prefer to stick with brands who acted in the best interest of the group. This is an opportunity to not only articulate your brand’s differentiating value but also to build long-term trust with customers. Marketing efforts built around brand compassion, community involvement, leadership and innovation have incredible currency right now and are a great way to focus campaigns in an uncertain season.
All the strategies we’ve talked about serve a larger goal of building brand authority. By taking the reins of your virtual brand experience, you’ll be able to steer perception and interactions more effectively. Brand confidence grows from the actions you take. In today’s connected, empathy-driven environment, people aren’t impressed by who’s “winning” so much as by who’s motivated by clear values and sense of purpose. Even the biggest brands are finding ways to engage their consumers and reinvest in their own humanity. Consider what ways you can realign your business to build trust with your customers and key stakeholders—starting with messaging and throughout the entire guest experience at your property.
Reinvent to Restart Your Revenue Engine
Airbnb’s IPO is going to hit hotels hard—the need to innovate to remain relevant is even stronger. There is an opportunity for brands to revitalize core identities, messaging and persuade travelers to book with you with an exceptional guest experience at a competitive (new) demand-driven price point. Now is the time to double down and invest in marketing efforts, paying extra attention to how you can improve the lives of your customers. Is your messaging aligned with the new customer profile and expectations? Does your brand essence translate through your entire guest experience? Are your communications and brand promise aligned with the booking journey through guest stay experience?
There has been an accelerated adoption of new technologies across all demographics. According to an Accenture survey earlier this year, “more than half of respondents said they are likely to increase their usage of voice-enabled digital assistants, online recommendation apps, self-service apps, intelligent devices and wearables.” This means a wider breadth of consumers are more capable of using novel technologies and now expect high-tech experiences.
Travelers have become accustomed to personalization that adds value and gives them some level of control over their experience. Tap into the technology capabilities that will allow you to deliver a more customized and personal experience. For instance, attribute-based shopping allows guests to select the amenities and room specifications they desire, which will ultimately result in a better experience at your property (as long as you are able to deliver on the room inventory). Read more on attribute-based shopping here.
Don’t Just Survive—Thrive
A look at previous economic hardships and times of market disruption reveals trends. Namely, brands who put the well-being of their employees and customers before their bottom line did better during recovery and had more sustainable growth years later. It turns out that the survival of the fittest has a lot less to do with who is willing to exploit the low hanging fruit of a community crisis and a lot more to do with who shows up as an empathetic and authentic ally.
COVID-19 has made authenticity a hotter commodity than ever as people long to connect with each other and strive to make choices that most accurately represent their values. For brands, this is a golden opportunity to really get to know your customers and focus your efforts on addressing the needs of different segments. People are willing to pay a bit more for an experience that better aligns with their values—and the best way to understand the customer and control the experience is through direct connections.
It’s rewarding to be part of an industry that has banded together for the greater good and continues to work together to return to revenue. We are collectively seizing this opportunity to transform businesses with integrated technology systems, streamlined and more profitable operations, and a focus on talent development.
There is space right now to create significance as a brand. People are asking for more value-driven options—it’s up to you to give it to them. I hope you seize the opportunity to be bold, forge ahead of the pack…and ultimately, take control of your brand’s destiny.